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Frank R. Levstik

Edwin C. Berry was born in Oberlin, Ohio, on December 10, 1854, the son of free parents who were born in Gallia County, Ohio. In 1856 his family moved to Athens County, where Berry remained for the rest of his life. In Athens County Berry attended Albany Enterprise Academy, one of the earliest educational institutions in the United States that was conceived, owned, and operated by blacks. The Berry family took in boarders, two of whom were to gain fame in their own right: Medal of Honor winner Milton M. Holland and his brother, William H. Holland, Texas legislator and educator.

Berry first found employment in Athens manufacturing bricks for the state mental hospital that was being constructed in town. In 1868 he secured work in a local restaurant as an apprentice cook for five years. On October 18, 1877 Berry married Mattie Madra of Pomeroy ...

Article

Gabrielle P. Foreman

Slave narratives are usually recognized and treated as an antebellum genre. Yet a significant group of exslaves who were children at the close of the Civil War also published their autobiographies. Annie Burton is one of the few such authors who, instead of dictating her story to someone else, wrote her own narrative. For some readers, Burton's Memories of Childhood's Slavery Days (1909) may seem to be a disjointed and nostalgic tale of what she calls the “Great Sunny South.” She breaks the narrative into eight sections: two autobiographical sketches, “a vision,” a piece she authored for her graduating essay, a radically progressive essay by the black minister Dr. P. Thomas Stanford entitled “The Race Question in America”, her own short “historical composition”, and her “favorite poems” and “favorite hymns” The first section is a wistful sketch of her childhood in Clayton Alabama which then ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

chef and the “Queen of Creole cooking,” was born Leah Lange in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charles Robert Lange, a caulker in a Madisonville shipyard, and Hortensia (Raymond) Lange. She was the eldest girl in a family of fourteen children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood. She was raised in the small rural fishing town of Madisonville, about thirty miles north of New Orleans. The family was poor, living mainly on vegetables from her father's garden. Her mother had only a sixth-grade education. In a 2003 interview Chase said that poverty, not segregation, was the most difficult experience of her childhood.

Chase s parents instilled in her a deep religious faith as well as the importance of family and service to the community They were strict and believed strongly in education She started school at age four Her father did not want her to associate with non Catholics so ...

Article

Marcie Cohen Ferris

businesswoman, chef, restaurateur, and community activist, was born Mildred Edna Cotten in Baldwin Township, Chatham County, North Carolina. The youngest daughter in a family of seven children, she was raised by her father Ed Cotten, a farmer and voice teacher. Council's mother Effie Edwards Cotten, a teacher trained at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, died at age thirty-four when her daughter was twenty-three months old. Mildred Council was nicknamed “Dip” by her brothers and sisters because her long arms allowed her to reach deep into the rain barrel and retrieve a dipper full of water, even when the barrel was low.

Council recalled as a significant moment the day in 1938 when her father asked her to stay home and “fix a little something to eat” while the rest of the family worked in the fields (Mama Dip's Kitchen, 2).

From a young age Council ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

George Thomas Downing was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father's Oyster House was a gathering place for New York's aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith's school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists J. McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Charles Reason and Patrick Reason, the African School #2 on Mulberry Street. He completed his schooling privately and in his mid-teens was active in two literary societies.

Before he was twenty Downing participated in the Underground Railroad and worked with his father to lobby the New York legislature for equal suffrage. In 1841 both were delegates to the initial convention of the American Reform Board of Disenfranchised Commissioners one of many organizations formed by African American males to fight for the elective franchise in New York ...

Article

Kathy Covert-Warnes

George Thomas Downing lived nearly eighty-four years, but the results of his struggles for civil rights persisted long past his death. He was born to Thomas and Rebecca West Downing in New York City and attended the Mulberry Street School, which educated many future leaders in the fight for black civil rights. When George turned fourteen, he and several schoolmates organized a literary society in which to read, write, and talk about various issues of the day—primarily slavery. The young men in the society adopted a resolution against celebrating the Fourth of July because they believed that the Declaration of Independence mocked black Americans.

Downing graduated from Hamilton College in Oneida County, New York, and began his fight for black civil rights by serving as an agent for the Underground Railroad. From 1857 to 1866 he led the fight against separate public schools for blacks and whites in Rhode ...

Article

Yvonne L. Hughes

restaurant owner and chef, was born Willie Mae Johnson in Hinds County, Mississippi, outside of Crystal Springs, the only child of Zella Moncure and Oscar Johnson, farmers. Seaton grew up immersed in a rich southern tradition of hand-me-down, unwritten recipes and culinary techniques. She described her southern upbringing in an interview with Carol Wilkinson for the Observer Food Monthly in 2006. “I'm a country girl,” she said. “We used to raise a little cotton, corn, peanut, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables. We'd get it out and fix it up good and then peddle it in Jackson, the state capital. I learnt to cook in my mother's kitchen and I've been cooking all my life. We had a stove kitchen with a warm-up on top and those old iron pots” (Wilkinson).

At the young age of seventeen, she married L. S. Seaton a Mississippi sharecropper ...

Article

Marilyn Morgan

chef, restaurateur, and executive, was born Sylvia Pressley in Hemingway, South Carolina, the only child of midwife Julia Pressley and Van Pressley, a World War I veteran who died three days after his daughter's birth. After Sylvia's third birthday her mother placed her in the care of her grandmother while she migrated to Brooklyn, New York, in search of higher-paying work as a laundress. By Sylvia's eighth birthday her mother returned to Hemingway, having saved enough money to purchase a sizable farm and build a small home. Hardworking and determined, her mother and grandmother earned the community's respect, owning over sixty acres and serving as the town's only midwives. Their inspirational examples imbued Woods with “strength, faith and self-sufficiency” (Woods, 36).

In 1937 Sylvia met Herbert Woods and despite their youth he was twelve she was eleven they fell in love and vowed to marry ...